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Paul Roberts.
Watts & Roberts Family

"Three Grandmothers"

My Mother always spoke of three Grandmothers: These were Grandmother Watts, Grandmother Denton, and Grandmother Goosey. Only Grandmother Denton was alive when I was born in December 1923. Grandmother Watts and Grandmother Goosey had died two years earlier. Grandmother Watts was in her eighties and Grandmother Goosey a few months under 100 years. Grandmother Denton died in 1925 in her eighties. Grandmother Watts and Grandmother Denton were actually my Great Grandmothers. Grandmother Goosey was actually my Great great Grandmother.

Paul's mother telling him tales of the old family
Doris Watts - talking to Paul 1990
My Mother told me that she went to Grandmother Denton’s funeral leaving me with Mrs. Rollins, our neighbour. I must have been a robust child because Mother said that Mrs. Rollins was the only neighbour who would have me for all the day. After paying the bus fare (about 1/8 return) Mother had 6 pence left; with those 6 pence she bought a bunch of daffodils for her Grandmother’s grave. My father’s wage at that time was about 30/- per week. Mother went on the surplus from the last week’s wages.

I asked my mother how she came to have three Grandmothers when I only had two. Thinking it over my Mother replied “Dad’s mum was Grandmother Watts at Lavendon. Grandmother Denton she was my Mother’s mum she came from Wellingborough. Grandmother Goosey was Grandmother Denton’s mum she was Wellingborough”.

The next question had to be, why was she Grandmother Denton if her children were Matthews. Who was Old Bill? These questions had never been asked; family members had thought them, but never dared to ask or were told. Slowly, my Mother replied “Grandmother Denton was said to have been married before but no one knew who he was. ‘Old Bill’ was her second husband; they could not marry at first because he had a wife in the Asylum.  He had two daughters by his wife”.  On hearing this, Aunt Rose exclaimed, “That’s why the Denton girls were some sort of cousins”. (Only when I discovered a scandal in the Roberts family would my Mother discuss her side)

The Grandfather Matthews was Charles, the son of James Matthews and Kezia Beeby. Grandmother Denton, born Charlotte Goosey, was his wife. She was the eldest child of William Goosey and Maria Groves Young.  Both families were from a long line of Wellingborough people who all lived in the area of the three Greens.  Broad Green, which in those times contained a pond on the green.  Little Green which was at the junction of Kettering Road and Gold Street.  West of Broad Green at the junction with Harrowden Road was Buckwell Green.  It was always emphasised that the family were ‘Broad Green’!

Charles Matthews was born in 1843 and died 10th of December 1879 of Phthysis. The address in 1881 was No 6, Short Lane Court, Buckwell End. Their children were Emily aged ten; Frederick aged eight; Walter aged six; and Rose Mary aged four years. Phthysis was consumption of the lungs. In 1871, they were living at No.2 Court, No. 3, Buckwell End. The Goosey’s would have nothing to do with Charlotte during this period. A son William Daniel was born just after her marriage to Charles. The certificate does not disclose the father of the child, who died a few years later. It is at this time that Charlotte takes all her children to be baptised together in St. Luke’s Church. She abandoned the Congregational Church of her mother Maria. However, Charles’ death certificate states that his Mother in Law, Maria Goosey, attended during his last illness.

A closing room
Maria Goosey’s husband William Goosey was a Cordwainer. In the 1860’s, he is listed a shoe machinist. He opened a Shoe Closing room in Jackson’s Lane. No remains of the site exist. William Goosey was one of the first to do this in what was to become the factory system. Robinson’s of Kettering had perfected a sewing machine for leather at this period. Grandma Denton claimed to have been one of the first Forewomen in a shoe closing room. Whether it was in her father’s workplace is unknown. She was to run and dominate the family to the day she died. This was one of the reasons my mother was the only one of the family to attend her funeral. In the hard times following World War I, especially for the hand sewn or riveting shoemakers few had half a crown to spend on funerals.

In 1841, James Matthews was living at 70, Gold Street. There are five families Matthews in Gold Street at that period.  James was the second son of Martha Matthews, widow. Edmund Matthews, the father, had died earlier. The children of Edmund and Martha were Robert, the eldest, who married Mary Mobbs; James married Kezia Beeby; Martha married William Allen; John; George who married Mary White and Susan who married Charles Coles. From the children of Martha and Edmund descend our family. In the five families of Matthews in Gold Street in 1841 were some 14 children.  All their many descendants are the present Matthews of Wellingborough.

Edmund Matthews, born in 1786, married Mary Ann Watkins in 1807. She was the daughter of John Watkins and Martha Barker. Edmund was the second son named Edmund born to his father Robert and his wife Ann Freeman. The first Edmund or perhaps Edward was christened on January 18th 1785.  He was buried on August 26th 1785. The record states that he died of Plague. The Parish books sums up the year’s burials ‘109 burials from plague this year out of 133 burials’.

James married Kezia Beeby, the daughter of John Beeby. It is believed that John Beeby came from Great Harrowden or Great Addington. Little is known of the family Beeby. They appear at Wellingborough and in this central part of the county; but from where is unknown. James and Kezia lived above Church Lane in the High Street. It may be that Warwick’s shop now stands on the site the former old houses. My Grandmother could not remember her father Charles and only her Grandmother Goosey. Yet there was another Grandmother – it was Kezia Beeby. Many years later when Grandmother was going to register Aunt Rose’s birth she surprised all the family and neighbours by naming her Rose Kezia. For many years, the family could not understand the name Kezia and even Aunt Rose was amused. The making of the Family History revealed the origin of that name. At that one moment in her life, with all its problems, Grandmother remembered her other Grandmother.

Charlotte Goosey (Grandmother Denton) was the eldest child of her parents William Goosey and Maria Groves Young.  She was born in 1843 at Crispin Street, Northampton where her parents moved to for a few years after their marriage.  William Goosey was a Cordwainer. The only knowledge of their move to Northampton comes from Charlotte being born there and is so entered on most Census Returns. All the other children are born at Wellingborough. The move could only have been for one or two years. The address where they lived when they returned to Wellingborough was 59, Black Horse Yard (1851 Census). 

At Broad Green, where the road forks to the left above Jackson’s Lane is a double fronted building with a central arch to the rear. I believe this was the Black Horse. This type of address is common at the time. William Goosey died in 1883 and he also was to pass unknown to the family. Grandma Watts was 4 years old at the time.

The death of William Goosey and the long years remaining to his wife, Grandmother Goosey, was to leave the family thinking of descent from the Gooseys. Yet the Gooseys only arrive in Wellingborough with William’s father Robert in the 1780’s. There are many families descendant from Goosey in this central part of the county; it is still very difficult to sort the families and relationship out. Grandmother Goosey, herself, is actually descended from the Youngs and Groves; very old established Wellingborough families.

The Census of 1881 lists William Goosey as a Soda Water manufacturer. It would seem that he abandoned the boot trade. They now lived in Hatton Park Road. At the time of his death, they were living in Kettering Road. Both rows of artisans houses still line those streets. William Goosey is no longer a shoemaker; Charles Matthews has died. The decade is when the boot industry is changing to factory production. In other villages, the social conditions of the old ways are taking a toll on the old workforce. Kettering, Wellingborough, and Rushden are growing as people move into them where a better life and better housing could he had. In 1841, the Gooseys are resident at 20 Buckwell End. There are two other families of Gooseys in Wellingborough in 1841. A widow and her son in Barrack Yard and a baker in the High Street. Neither of these appears to be related. It appears that poorer housing existed at Buckwell Green. It was possible that some of the houses here were of wattle and daub with thatch; one of the oldest parts of Wellingborough. Only one photograph exists of that older type. They are pictured in the book on Wellingborough history.

Robert Goosey, the father, was a brickmaker. At the period brickmakers dug clay from clay banks, moulded the clay into bricks and fired them in turf covered kilns. The only sign they have left is the appearance of large circular rings in the grass in which mushrooms and toadstools grow; called fairy rings by we children. The modern brickmaking process starts about 1850. Edmund’s second son William Goosey is listed as born at Brigstock. This indicates that Edmund was brickmaking there in that period. Of further interest, after the brickmakers had finished, curriers then curried leather in the clay pits. This was before the creation of chemical tanning in the 1880’s. Robert Goosey’s wife Martha was born Martha Matthews. They were married on the 25th December 1814. Her brothers were George Matthews and Robert Matthews. Robert was the grandfather of Charles Matthews. Robert and George sign as witness to each other’s wedding.  Robert and Martha had six children. In the 1871 Census their descendants number about 30.  It is only from the signing of each other’s marriage as witness that their relationship can be made.

Robert the eldest was in born 1819; William born 1821; other brothers are George; John; Septimus or Stephen; and Charles. Robert and William are listed as born at Brigstock. Robert came to Raunds; he is listed brickmaker in 1851. He had four children by a first wife who died. He married Ann Cobley of Ringstead whose son was born at Thrapston,  possibly in the Workhouse. At Raunds, they lived in Brook Street. George, listed brickmaker, is also at Raunds. He has a wife with a son born at Thrapston. Both second marriages may have been arranged marriages. 

John married Elizabeth Vyse; in the 1851 Census Elizabeth’s father, William Vyes, born at Great Easton is living with them. Septimus or Stephen is also at Raunds as a railway drayman at the newly constructed Raunds railway station on the Kettering to Cambridge line, I believe he died at Northampton and is buried there at St. Lawrence’s Church. Steven found on the railway line a child’s bonnet. This he gave to Grandma Watts, who was henceforth always called by the family “Our Mary bonnet”. Grandma Goosey fell down the stairs; this was in 1921 and died of the shock several months later; she was a few months under 100 years of age. It was during those last few weeks that my Mother, with her new boy friend, my father, visited her. My father had to stay outside and was not invited in the house (the rules were strict in those days). Entering Grandma Goosey’s bedroom, Grandma Goosey exclaimed “It’s our Mary bonnet”.  My Mother and her Mother in build and size were very similar.

Charles Goosey married Charlotte Rivett and came to Cromwell Road, Rushden. He gave Grandma away on her wedding to Grandfather Watts. Mother remembers him in the early days about 1900 because he would entertain them. Putting on funny hats and making them laugh. He entertained publicly according to reports. Charles was a clicker.

Grandmother Goosey born Maria Groves Young was the daughter of George Young and Mary Groves. Her Great grandfather John Young was one of the first in Wellingborough to be buried ‘In another place’. The Hardwick Act of 1756 compelled all marriages to be held in the Church of England. Burials could be elsewhere, provided the Church authorities were notified within three days (burial space was getting short). Some Dissenters not only would not be buried in Church consecrated ground; some even being opposed to marrying in a church. Marrying in their Dissenter chapel. This is why some marriages appear illegal). John Young was buried either at Salem Lane chapel or the Quaker burial ground in St. John Street. My Mother described her Great Grandmother as small and erect with very strict principles that did not include the approval of ‘Drink’.

A shoe last with leather added to increase the size on top
An old shoe last
The 1870s were times of great hardship. It is the period when the old craft of handmaking boots in small workshops was changing to machinery using larger buildings that were to become factories. It was in this period that William Goosey abandons his old craft of Cordwainer and closing machinist to manufacturing soft drinks. Late Victorian society as we think of it was now developing. Midland Road was constructed linking the town centre with the newly constructed railway from London to Derby. The Victoria Estate was laid out, followed by the Ranelagh Estate; also the area of Great Park Street to name but a few.

The death of Charles Matthews must have left Charlotte in dire straights. With the children, she enters the workhouse.  It must have been after 1881 because of their address in that year’s Census Return. How long they stayed we do not know. Grandma Watts recalled that she was about five years old and always remembered that she cried when they had to leave; such were the conditions outside. For the children the Workhouse was no stigma but regular meals, good clothes, and a weekly bath. It must have been about 1884 when they left the Workhouse. My Mother thought that it was in the Workhouse that she met ‘Old Bill’. His address in 1881 was Lilleys Yard in Irthlingborough.

John Cole in his History of Wellingborough records the times.  He writes that it was a period of harsh winters.  Soup kitchens for the poor appeared in the streets of Wellingborough.  He writes that Old Isaac in his poverty walked to the workhouse for admission. In the window of the Workhouse was a notice ‘Will only those in real need apply, the Workhouse is full’; slowly old Isaac turned back to his home where he died a few days later, cold and penniless.

My Mother said they did not have a Christmas like others, because they were poor. From her wages in 1911, Mother bought a fowl for the family’s Christmas dinner. I asked what they had for their Christmas and she replied that her Mother would make small plum tartlets and they had a piece of beef. Mother also said that earlier her Father had gone home to his mother at Lavendon for the day (walking each way). Today we think of Christmas as having a turkey, yet the turkey has only become general these past forty years. Some people still prefer a good piece of beef, or a leg of lamb or pork.

Grandmother Watts made small plum tarts, not mince pies. In addition, she was very good at making pastry. The Christmas dinner was not because they were poor but was Grandmother’s traditional fare. Born in the 1870s this would have been common fare. Her Mother, Grandmother Denton who was born in 1843, would also have known no other food for Christmas. Grandmother Goosey born in 1821 the Christmas fare would have been the same; to old Dissenter families, plain fare would have been their belief.

Grandmother Denton was born at the time when the Prince Consort is said to have introduced the first Christmas tree into Britain. Grandmother Goosey grew up before Charles Dickens’ book ‘A Christmas Carol’ was published. The book that is said to have started our traditional Christmas. The same would have been the world of Grandmother Watts and her parents at Lavendon. Living to their great ages, they brought into the C20th the old style Christmas; perhaps going back into earlier centuries at Wellingborough. Pictures of characters in Dickens book and the dress men and women wore would not have seemed odd or amusing as they do to us – to them it was a natural view of their world.

John Cole writes in his ‘History of Wellingborough’. A town of 1500 inhabitants has several fairs, but the chief one is that dedicated to Saint Luke, and held in October. A hundred years ago, when the town was not half the size it is now, its streets during Fair time were filled with merchandise. Cheese Lane was crowded with piles of cheese, Market Street with cattle, Sheep Street with pens of sheep and Broad Green with its Pleasure FairThe inhabitants have a curious dinner called Hock and Dough Flake, which is still commonly eaten on the Fair Sunday. It consists of pork with a surrounding layer of flour and water mixed into a past, interspersed with potatoes and seasoned with herbs, but even St. Luke’s Fair becomes every year of less importance and is scarcely more than a large market.

To enter the Workhouse they had to be in poverty; yet the Christmas fare of plum tartlets and beef was not because they were poor. It was the end of the old time Christmas from a time when Wellingborough had many Fairs. St. Luke’s Fair, which is in late October, would have eclipsed Christmas. 

William Denton, known as ‘Old Bill’, was born in one of the nine old cottages that stood at the Walnut tree in Higham Ferrers North End. He was the eldest son; his younger brother several years his junior was Charles Denton. Charles was the brother who succeeded; William was the brother who did not.  Yet, my Mother remembers him as a kindly man, with his trousers always patched; he was fond of Grandma Watts who he always called ‘Our Rose’. In 1881, William is living in Lilleys Yard, Irthlingborough. Charles is a businessman, owning a grocery shop and manufacturing in a small way in Higham Hill, Rushden. The shop still exists but for most of its time it was the Post Office; it stood where the Zebra crossing starts. His house was the end of the row of houses adjoining the Post Office on the Rushden side. Charles’ factory stood behind the original furnishing shop of Gramshaw; down the unmade road along side. The building burnt down and the present building was built on the site. Uncle Charles’ wife Joan worked in the present building on the site for many years.

Grandma Charlotte and old Bill set up house. Grandma Watts had the task of carrying the boots from Irthlingborough to Charles Knight’s factory in Park Road. She would only be about eight or ten years of age. On one occasion Grandma saw a dead man floating in the river as she crossed over the footbridge and into Higham. One day Charles Knight said to Grandma “Rose they are not to send you any more. It is not right that a child like you
Houses in Cromwell Road looking very much the same as when they were first built
A view in Cromwell Road - 2007
should carry the heavy boots all the way from Irthlingborough”. The result was that Grandma Denton and old Bill came to newly built houses in Cromwell Road, Rushden. How did she get a newly built house?  – It can only be that she had many contacts that had influence. Some twenty-five years later my Mother was taking boots from Cromwell road to Charles Denton’s factory in Higham Hill. As I remarked to my Mother, I did the same when she did lift dobbing in Raunds another twenty-five years later.

The Northampton Mercury reports at that period of a campaign by Radicals in Northampton to eradicate this type of child labour in the boot industry. In the 1840s Charles Knight had been a Chartist advocating Universal Male Suffrage.

Grandmother Denton as she now became was disliked for being domineering to the family, correcting them and interfering. Yet, she kept them together through all hardships when other families were split up and their children put into service. I said to my Mother and Aunt Elsie however hard her life had been and the many difficulties faced that despite her domineering ways and harsh voice, she kept them together as a family and she had brought them to a new life in Rushden. They sat silent for some time and thinking it they over agreed with me. To redeem Grandmother Denton and to discover the lost Grandmother Kezia has made the studying of family history all worthwhile.

There is one happier ending; Grandfather Watts at the age of eleven years was sent to an Aunt Dykes on his family’s side. She owned a shop on Wellingborough Market Hill but lived in Northampton. It was in Wellingborough that my Mother believed he met Grandmother. When Grandmother Denton moved to Rushden, Grandfather Watts also made a move to his other relatives, his Uncle Jack Britain. However, Uncle Jack was his Mother’s uncle and Aunt Dykes his father’s Aunt whose Scottish born husband was a Northampton council official. It was to Aunt Dykes at Northampton that John Watts, Grandfather Watts’ grandfather, went to live out his last years. Who were they? That family tangle will have to be another story.

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